Heartworms are a blood-borne parasite that can live in your pet’s heart or pulmonary arteries. While they’re more common in dogs than cats, recent studies have shown that a far greater number of felines are affected than previously thought. Here’s everything you should know about this parasite and cats.
How are heartworms transmitted? Up to 30 species of mosquitoes can be carriers for heartworm. In order to infect a pet, a mosquito must feed on an infected animal and ingest heartworm larvae. After the larvae have matured, they can then be transmitted to your cat or dog when the mosquito bites it. Once inside your cat, the larvae will mature into adult heartworms and can live for up to three years. What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats? A heartworm infestation is called heartworm disease and its symptoms can vary greatly. Some signs include:
Loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss
Unfortunately, these are also symptoms of other, more common cat diseases and are often not connected to heartworm before it’s too late. Should I get my cat tested for heartworms? Most veterinarians don’t recommend a yearly heartworm test for cats because the results are often inaccurate. Because fewer heartworms are usually present in a cat than a dog, heartworm tests can be unreliable. A cat must have at least two adult female heartworms to yield a positive test, and the presence of immature or male worms will show a negative outcome. Can my cat be treated for heartworm disease? Unfortunately, there is no treatment for feline heartworm disease. The drug that’s commonly used to treat heartworms in dogs can have serious and even lethal side effects in cats, so it’s not generally recommended. This doesn’t mean your cat will necessarily succumb to heartworms, however. It’s possible to manage the symptoms of the disease and hope that your cat outlives the worms. In some cases of severe heartworm disease, it’s possible to surgically remove the worms from your pet’s organs. This is considered a last resort option. Preventing feline heartworm disease While heartworm disease is hard to detect and treat, it’s very easy to prevent. Talk to your veterinarian about the preventive treatment options available to you and your cat. It’s important to treat even indoor cats, as the disease only requires one infected mosquito to be transmitted. A GTA vet for your pet If you want to know more about heartworm prevention or to schedule a test for your cat or dog, your pet is sure to be comfortable at Bellamy-Lawrence Animal Hospital. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our animal clinic in Toronto.